Skip to main content

Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

See other formats

he thinks of the ocean in mild tropical nights, when
the calm starlight, not sparkling in those regions,
pours over its expanse of waves; he thinks of the
wooded vales of the Cordilleras., where strong palm.
trees, like pillars, break throiigh the dark foliage ; he
thinks of the Peak of Teneriffe, where layers of clouds
separate the cone from the lower earth^ and a sudden
rent in the clouds opens a view for the spectator on
high over the vine-covered hills of Orotava and the
gardens on the coast. These great scenes of nature
exercise their influence by the individual character of
the landscape, and not by the calm, creative power
of still life, for even the terrible, the infinite, and in-
comprehensible, are a source of enjoyment here. The
imagination endeavours creatively to supply what re-
mains veiled from the senses, and we erroneously
believe to receive from the material "world what our
feelings have introdxiced into it. Bhimboldt says:
cc When after a long voyage far from home we for the
first time set foot in a tropical country, we rejoice to
see on the steep precipices the same rocky formation
which we have quitted on European soil, and whose
universality seems to prove that the earth crust was
formed independently of the exterior influences of the
present climatic relations; but this well-known earth
is decked with the forms of a foreign flora. Then the
wonderfully adaptive power of the human mind re-
veals itself to the inhabitants of the northern zone.,
surrounded hy unaccustomed plants, by the overpower-
ing grandeur of the tropical organizations, and by an
exotic nature. We seem so familiar with all organized
matter, that if it even at first seems as if our native
landscape, like a native dialect, would seem more
familiar and agreeable than this foreign, voluptuous
fertility, we are very soon at home in the palm climate
of the torrid zone. By the mysterious connexion of
all organic matter (and the feeling for the necessity
of this connexion is involuntarily latent within us),
those exotic forms seem to our phantasy as the ennobled
and more elevated forms of the same objects which